Monday, August 13, 2007

A virtual tour

A customer peruses postcards before an opera.

Inside Alice Busch Opera Theatre, patrons prepare for a night of opera.

The crowded scene shop, where set pieces are stored between performances.

Inside the makeup room of the Wardrobe House.
View of the fire lake from the balcony of the house.

Donors enjoy Intermission Club between acts.

One of over 50 changeovers the stage operations crew will do this season.

Glimmerglass reaches out to the community through events

Each season, Glimmerglass Opera brings in professionals from all around the country to produce high-quality operas. However, as geographically diverse as the opera is, it still has strong ties to the Cooperstown community.

When many people think of Cooperstown, they think only of the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum. But there are many attractions outside of the sports culture like the Fenimore Art Museum, the Farmers' Museum, and of course, Glimmerglass Opera, that reflect the diverse interests of Cooperstown. Although many people travel from outside of Otsego County to visit Glimmerglass, much of the opera's business and its most ardent supporters come from Cooperstown itself.

In addition, many local singers participate directly in the operas. David Fahrquar, a Cooperstown resident and Glimmerglass Opera Guild Member, has sung in the chorus nearly every season since 1982.

"I sing with people here that I read about next year in Opera News," said Fahrquar. "I enjoy it so much that I wouldn't know what to do in the summer besides sing at Glimmerglass Opera."

Fahrquar and wife Donna, along with many other community members, also volunteer their time as ushers.
The Alice Busch Opera Theater itself hosts community events. For example the company hosts Fall for the Arts in September, where an assortment of local arts organizations held performances, demonstrations and workshops. Recently the theater hosted Cherry Valley High School's graduation.

But the majority of Glimmerglass' community contact comes form shows and events. For example, in July Glimmerglass hosted Family Day, where kids ate a picnic, played games and learned the cancan. Afterwards, they saw the opera "Orpheus in the Underworld" by Offenbach, a French comedic opera translated into English. Also, Glimmerglass presents free Young American Artist recitals in Cooperstown and the surrounding area.

Glimmerglass promotes opera in both the summer season and the off-season. During the long New York winter, Glimmerglass participated in Cooperstown's Cabin Fever Film Series by screening films with opera references in them. In the spirit of this year's Orpheus themed-season, Glimmerglass is hosting free film screenings of Jean Cocteau's Orphée and Marcel Camus' Black Orpheus at the Fenimore Art Museum.

Cocteau's Orphée plays:
August 16 at 3:30 p.m.
August 21 at 5:30 p.m.

Black Orpheus plays:
August 18 at 11:00 a.m.
August 24 at 3:30 p.m.

Another way Glimmerglass promotes opera is by hosting seminars. In March the Glimmerglass Opera and the Glimmerglass Creative Learning Center presented a series of seminars entitled Opera Unplugged, which covered a wide range of topics including opera music in film, languages in opera, the life of a singer, and voice types. During the season, Glimmerglass hosts classes through the Center for Continuing Adult Learning (CCAL) , giving participants a taste of life behind the curtain, as well as previews of upcoming operas, a tour, and access to staff production seminars.

During August, the opera also offers backstage tours on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. and production changeover talks on Saturday afternoons after the matinee performance.

For more information on Glimmerglass events, please visit the Special Events, Picnics, Previews & Recitals page.
For upcoming events, including Young American Artists Program Recitals, please scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

One more Orpheus

Although all the mainstage productions have opened, Glimmerglass still has one more new work to present--a concert version of Haydn's L'Anima del Filosofo. The opera was never performed during Haydn's life and is still rarely presented.

Glimmerglass' presentation features former member of Young American Artists Program Sarah Coburn. Coburn has gone on to sing at the Metropolitan Opera among other great American opera houses. Tenor Norman Shankle regularly graces the stage of European opera houses and has previously sung the role of Orfeo in L'Anima del Filosofo at the Eisenstadt International Haydn Festival. Members of the Young American Artists Program and local chorus form the ensemble chorus, which has a strong presence throughout the work. The conducting work is split between Monteverdi conductor Antony Walker and Glass conductor Anne Manson.

Because the concert must fit into the busy production schedule, it rehearsed on the Offenbach set, but will be performed on the Monteverdi set and the Gluck set.

This is the first year that Glimmerglass has presented a concert in addition to the four mainstage productions. The work made its Glimmerglass premiere on Sunday. There will be one more performance on August 19 that is already sold out. Plans are already in the works for another Shakespeare-themed concert next season. Repertoire will include music from Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Young Artists In Recital

Starting July 26, the 29 members of the Young American Artists Program began presenting recitals at venues in and around Cooperstown. The recitals offer community members, ticket holders, opera staff, and fellow program members the opportunity to hear these emerging singers in a solo setting.

The program includes many of the nation's best and brightest upcoming young singers. Members of the Young American Artists Program from years past have gone on to sing at the Metropolitan Opera and other great American opera houses, as well as internationally.

The artists have been preparing their 45-minute recital program in addition to opera rehearsals and performances. Soprano Katrina Thurman (left) has had to cover (understudy) five roles, in addition to being in the ensemble for three of the shows and having a small solo in the Monteverdi. She presented her recital Friday, the day before the Monteverdi opened.

The singers often choose to theme their recitals. For example, soprano Ellen Wieser performed a recital consisting entirely of songs by British composers like Britten and Quilter. Thurman themed her recital around a poem she had written, using it to form a story arc. Soprano Donna Smith also created a story out of her program, using a variety of composers to chronicle a tale of love lost and re-gained.

For a list of upcoming recitals, please scroll to the bottom of the page.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Classic Opera Stories

Possibly the most commonly asked question for artists is "where do you get your ideas?" For most opera composers, the story is already written for them--they simply provide the music. Composers often draw the stories of their operas from the popular culture of the time. Popular legends, myths, books, plays, poems all became subjects of opera. Although most opera stories are set once, maybe a few times, and then retired, a few sources pop up over and over again over the course of music history.

  • Greek myths served as the basis for most operas of the Baroque and Classical Eras, and continued to be mildly popular in the Romantic and Modern Eras. A popular source was Ovid's Metamorphoses, the basis for operas like Cavalli's La Calisto, Handel's Acis and Galatea, Handel's Semele, several operas by Lully, Mozart's first opera Apollo et Hyacinthus, Donizetti's first opera Il Pigmalione, Strauss' Daphne, and many operas about Orpheus.
  • Ludovico Ariosto wrote the epic poem Orlando Furioso, which served as the inspiration for Tasso's work Jerusalem Delivered and the basis for a slew of operas named Armide, set by Lully, Salieri, Gluck, Haydn, Rossini and others. The epic story La liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d'Alcina, also based on Ariosto's work was the inspiration for Francesca Caccini, Luigi Rossi, Handel, Vivaldi, Lully, Rameau, and Haydn, among others.
  • William Shakespeare became popular in the opera world about 200 years after his death, during the Romantic Era. Many of his plays enjoy one or more opera settings. The Merry Wives of Windsor about the lusty knight Falstaff was set by Salieri, Nicolai, Verdi, Holst, and Vaughn Williams. The ever-popular Romeo and Juliet was set by Gounod, Delius, Bernstein, Bellini, and Vaccai. Glimmerglass Opera is basing its 2008 season around tales told by the prolific bard, including Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi (based on the story that inspired Romeo and Juliet), Wagner's Das Liebesverbot (based on Measure for Measure), and Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate (based on The Taming of the Shrew.)
  • Goethe's Faust--Originally a folk legend, the story of the man who sold his soul to the devil was made into a play by Christopher Marlowe (c. 1600) and Goethe (1832). The Goethe play was the basis for several operas by composers like Gounod, Berlioz, and Boito. Texts by Goethe were also extremely popular for lieder composers.
Images courtesy of NYPL Digital Gallery.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Free Films on August 4

In the spirit of this year's Orpheus themed-season, Glimmerglass is hosting free film screenings of Jean Cocteau's Orphée and Marcel Camus' Black Orpheus at the Fenimore Art Museum.
Cocteau's Orphée plays:
August 4 at 11:00 a.m.
August 16 at 3:30 p.m.
August 21 at 5:30 p.m.
Black Orpheus plays:
August 4 at 2:00 p.m.
August 18 at 11:00 a.m.
August 24 at 3:30 p.m.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Last Premiere

This Saturday marked the fourth and final opera premiere of the Glimmerglass 2007 season, Monteverdi's L'Orfeo. The opera is a co-production between Glimmerglass and Opera North (Leeds, England). In 2008, Opera Norway will also produce the opera.

L'Orfeo is one of the most historically significant operas ever written. Although composers had experimented with combinations of music and drama before, the opera is generally considered the "first" opera and is certainly the earliest performed with any real regularity.

During a production seminar last Wednesday, conductor Antony Walker explained the evolution of opera before Monteverdi. "Fifty years before this was written, there were many documented, large-scale celebratory pieces that sometimes had a narrative going through them. A little analogy might be the musical theatre of today, which had a lot of spoken dialogue and then some songs as well. Then we had people asking, 'What did the Greeks used to do? What did they do with their dramas and how can we possibly hearken back to the Hellenic times and recreate what they might have done?' So, they came up with this sung recitation, which was accompanied by continuo-- it wasn't so much a song, but a narration."

As historically notable as the music is, director Christopher Alden strives to bring modernity to the production. "This version of the opera is very much about Orpheus as an artist. We're talking about art and what it means to be an artist. To me what's fascinating about this piece is Eurydice is like Orfeo's art, his muse, his creativity. It was so long before she gave in to him. That's when he created all this amazing music, out of his longing for her. And then, as soon as he gets it, she dies--it's taken away from him. When you want it, when you are really hungry for it, that's when you are creative, but as soon as you get that thing and are paid for it and are successful on some level, it's gone."

The opera is the centerpiece of the season, the one that General and Artistic Director Michael MacLeod built the season around to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its premiere. "I think it's extraordinarily lucky that in 2007, the 400th anniversary of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, that we have the chance to present it at Glimmerglass for the first time. In fact, that was the germ of the idea of having an entire season based on the Orpheus myth," MacLeod said.